Graduate Level Open Primer Textbook on Visual Studies - 10 am EST

Feedback-a-thon Time: on April 2nd at 10 am EST / 2pm UTC

How did you decide to make this textbook?

Partly egged on by @zoe and @apurva and partly driven by the lack of a good and basic textbook on Visual Studies (a very young discipline and taught at a very few Universities) a group of University scholars and non-University professionals (with experience in school text book publishing, commercial and academic publishing editorships, and authors with cross-genre writing experience ) have come together to work on this textbook. Visual thinking and visual judgements are getting increasingly crucial in not just academic scholarships but also in our day-to-day decision making politics of existence and sustenance.

What are you trying to achieve with this textbook?

The world today, flooded with manufactured images, is increasingly biased towards visual thinking.
Discourses and worldviews are constantly being made and unmade with a controlled circulation of images. It has only been a few decades since images - even images that are not ‘art’ - have been acknowledged academically as sources of knowledge as valid as written texts or spoken words.
The methods of how we are supposed to read and know images have long been influenced by
how we are supposed to rate good art by European standards. Visual thinking is anything but easy- because the meanings of images vary widely in time, space and culture. We might become prone to over-readings, under-readings and misreadings. Help needs to be taken from various other ways
of knowing to make sure we are not making the images tell us exactly what we want them to.
This graduate level Visual Studies textbook, divided in fifteen parts, is a timely primer to effective visual thinking both globally and locally.

What have you done so far?

We have got primary consent from each of our team members for participation and identified four existing texts as our primary sources: 1. a postgraduate level course reader of ‘Visual Arts : Theory and Aesthetics’ (, with the consent of Dr. Parul Dave-Mukherji, the author of the course structure and tutor of this course.) 2. Berger, John. Ways of seeing . Vol. 1. Penguin UK, 2008. 3. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world . Penguin UK, 2015. 4. Warburton, Nigel. The art question . Routledge, 2013. (also, by the same author:

Who is on your team?

As all the team members are yet to open their profiles in this platform so sharing their names and descriptions in alphabetical order.

  1. @ajantadas.13 (Visual Studies Scholar, successfully defended her MPhil from School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

  2. @Jyotsna (Publishing Industry Professional (Editing), Masters from SAA-JNU )

  3. Rubina Saife (Textbook and Pedagogy Professional (Public and Private Institutions))

  4. Sandip K Luis (Visual Studies Scholar, about to defend his PhD from SAA, JNU)

  5. @will.get.back

  6. @znagree (Independent Visual Arts Researcher and Art Writing Professional, Masters from Art Institute of Chicago )

Please share a maximum of three questions. These questions can be specific to your project or address broader open textbook themes.

  • Please outline the basic steps and associated deadlines that goes towards creating an Open Textbook.

The process is outlined in the guide to making open textbooks, with these main areas of consideration:

  1. Building a Team
  2. Project Scoping
  3. Creating & Editing Content
  4. Feedback & Review
  5. Marketing & Communications
  6. Preparing for Release
  7. Post-Release Considerations
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I’ve had a cursory look some time back and watched some videos from the Rebus YT channel.
Hoping to learn more by doing.
Deadlines, I guess, one figures out as one goes ahead.

Deadlines are super-important, they keep a project on track. They do need to be reasonable and achievable. What that means might differ for different teams, and the amount that is expected per contributor.

Would it be helpful to have a “cheatsheet” for the process (each phase described in general), with some general rule of thumb rough timelines for each phase?

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That would be brilliant, @hugh ! Thanks.

@apurva @LeighKP… see above for something that would be a good resource to have on hand, at some point :wink:


Hi Sourav! Great to hear from you again :slight_smile: I love the sound of this project - such a cool subject to tackle in an OER, especially given it’s a young discipline, and I imagine keeping examples up to date and relevant to local contexts is so important.

As Hugh indicated, we have a general step-by-step approach as he outlined, and I can give some advice for putting that on a timeline.

To start it’s worth putting in the time to go through a detailed project scoping process with your team. The key outputs of this should be an in depth project summary (template) + a detailed outline of the content. It sounds like you’ve already identified 15 sections, so you might have done much of this, but we advise people to also consider things like:

  • Choosing a license
  • Identifying a clear audience (and associated reading level)
  • Mapping key concepts across the different sections to avoid duplication
  • Deciding on measures of success
  • Identifying unique aspects of the book that will appeal to potential collaborators (you have plenty of these!) - think of this as being able to tell the story of your project

Once you have these in hand, the next step is to flesh out an author guide (template) - this will be useful even if you’re not intending to recruit more authors, and critical if you are. Same as the project scoping, creating an author guide is about reading through the prompts and making a few decisions that will keep everyone on the same page.

This process might take you a few weeks, depending on how far in you are, but it’ll serve you well in the long term!

From there, you can block out time for the different phases of the process. Typically the biggest chunks of work will be:

  • Writing content
  • Editing content
  • Peer review
  • Formatting & release prep

Each of these will likely take a minimum of 6-8 weeks, and if you’re recruiting authors, editors and/or reviewers along the way you’ll want to build in at least an extra 4 weeks or so for that in each phase. This is just a guide, mind you, and depends on the time available from your team as much as anything.

The other thing to remember, though, is that some of the processes can be concurrent, and it’s up to your team, really, how strictly you want to structure things! Some project teams choose to keep their content moving through each phase together, and others will do it on a rolling basis. Both have advantages, but if you’re working out a process there’s something to be said for sending one chapter through the gauntlet ahead of the others so you can work out some of the kinks!

Last thing on deadlines is that you won’t always keep to them, and that’s ok. We’ve never met a project that did! But they are important mile-markers along the way, and a reminder to check in on what you’re doing and how things are going. Each time you do, you can revisit your timeline and see what you need to adjust. If you’re aiming to complete the book for a certain semester, you might need to tighten up on some of the other phases, or see if there’s anything that could be bumped until after the initial release (e.g. adding case studies to each chapter).

It’s a bit of an imperfect science, but you know best what you and your team can reasonably achieve!

I’ll also note that your team shaping up looks like a fantastic mix of skills, so nice work on that front. Having people with experience in publishing & pedagogy is invaluable and not all projects have that advantage. Really excited to see it all come together!

Let me know if you have any follow up questions.


I’d also suggest posting any calls for participation in the contributor marketplace. These could include requests for lead editors, feedback on content, authors…any role that needs filling. And if you would like us to amplify your calls, post in this thread. I can share your calls through our various channels, namely Twitter and our Newsletter.

Note: If you plan to recruit authors, your should start soon as this will impact your timeline.


Thanks @zoe, your feedback was very detailed. I have to break it down for myself and the team members. I think the first step will be choosing the license. I am looking up if is by default the best license to have.

Hey @LeighKP That’s a timely and solid advice but I think we have to figure things out ourselves before doing that. I have bookmarked your feedback. Also, when we get to the delegation of the writing part, we will realise whether we need any more contributors or not.

Most of the team members are either doing full-time jobs or are managing multiple part-time jobs, so only their love for making books and for the bright, young discipline of Visual Studies have brought them together. So we want to take it slow, work consistently, underpromise and (hopefully) over-deliver. Before deciding our deadlines we have to get all of our ducks in a row.

We will haunt the halls of the Rebus Community Forum, and figure out a working module for our team first with meaningful, deliverable chunks of work.

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I’m always around if you want to talk about strategies for amplifying calls for participation.

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Great stuff! And yea, we generally recommend CC-BY to ensure the most downstream uses & compatibility with other licenses, but there are some cases where it isn’t appropriate. I imagine you’ll run into some fun questions around image/video licensing too but that can be a future problem!

Sounds like the right approach to feel things out and get started slowly. Having a bigger pool of authors can be a real advantage to spread the work around, although there’s a little more overhead in getting the team together & in sync. We wrote up a bit of a comparison of the different approaches to authoring if you’re interested, and if it helps, you can always start out with one approach and adapt if it doesn’t work out! Flexibility goes a long way in these things, and you can always come here for advice as you hit those decision points.

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Hi Sourav, great to see you posting in here! Exciting to see the updates that you’ve made to this project since we last spoke, and to see the team slowly growing. I see that Zoe and Hugh have gotten back to you already on the bulk of your questions, and as they’ve said, please let us know if there’s anything you’d like to follow-up on.

That’s excellent, and fits wonderfully with our approach too! :smiley:

That’s a fairly usual case with a lot of the people working on open textbook projects, and taking it slow is a good approach! “underpromise and (hopefully) over-deliver” sounds about right too. As you’re still in the planning phase and allotting various tasks to one another, I wanted to point you to our upcoming Office Hours session on the “Invisible Labour of OER” There’s a lot that can go into making an open textbook, but being aware, open, and upfront about the work involved will help make it easier to manage (or so I hope).

Thanks again for taking the time today to chat with us. Looking forward to hearing more as you and the team get going!


Thanks @apurva for mentioning the “Invisible Labour of OER” session. Bookmarked it and I’d like to listen in.


You’re welcome! Hope you find it interesting and useful.

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@will.get.back I just wanted to let you know that anyone wishing to start a new open textbook project can follow these simple steps (Create a New Project) and receive a dedicated discussion space for their projects. You’re welcome to follow the short steps outlined above whenever you and your team are ready!

As always, if you had any questions or comments, you could let us know here or post in the Help & Questions category. Looking forward to seeing how you get along! :slight_smile:

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